I am developing a love/strong-disregard relationship with religion.
I’ll let that confession marinate. Notice the emphasis on religion as a traditional institution, which is a separate notion from spirituality. I have and forever will accept Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior.
Divorcing the Baptist church was draining; but examining the faults in non-denominational Christianity is tipping the scales. Non-denominational identification isn’t working out. Recalling the violent bloodshed, patriarchal ideologies and exclusion of individual adoption in Christianity is beginning to traipse on a sensitive nerve. In response, my conscious keeps encouraging me to disavow from religion and pursue wholeness with God instead. I’m beginning to listen.
When I discovered womanism and began immersing into an unexpected role as a scholar, I vowed to continue embracing God and finding solace in His guidance and love. After all, I had no intention on adopting the “atheist, feminist, liberal” exclamations that often grace Twitter biographies. However, I never anticipated the impact that critical dissection would have on my perspective of popular culture, hip-hop, romantic comedies – and even religion.
It has been difficult to reconcile the rampant sexism within Christianity and the ideologies I’ve espoused as a newly-minted womanist scholar. In an effort to continue existing in these two worlds, I dissected the Bible’s historical context as well as the depiction of women within those scriptures I spew with such indignant passion. What I discovered has left me hurt, puzzled and at a religious crossroads.
I love God and have an inextinguishable faith. I am a womanist and view the world’s ills from that sociological perspective. These conflicting considerations have me considering a return to an existence where life was pleasant and I never considered intersectionality and cultural appropriation and micro-aggressions and sexism within religious texts.
What is most bothersome is when I think I’ve found peace in life as a Christian and a womanist, another news headline, conversation or television episode topples me again.
“Iyanla, Fix My Life” debuts an episode featuring a pastor that was spreading his seed as well as the Word in a church that he’s shepherding. Yet, even after he confessed his sins to the congregation, his flock agreed to keep him behind the pulpit.
Just this morning, I read a piece at the New York Times on the blatant exclusion of women from the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
“For more than two decades, women have been making a monthly pilgrimage to pray at one of Judaism’s holiest sites in a manner traditionally preserved for men, and the police have stopped them in the name of maintaining public order
But after a flurry of arrests this fall that set off an international outcry, the women arrived for December’s service to find a new protocol ordered by the ultra-Orthodox rabbi who controls the site. To prevent the women from defying a Supreme Court ruling that bars them from wearing ritual garments at the wall, they were blocked by police officers from bringing them in.
After years of legislative and legal fights, the movement for equal access for people to pray as they wish at the site has become a rallying cause for liberal Jews in the United States and around the world, though it has long struggled to gain traction here in Israel, where the ultra-Orthodox retain great sway over public life.
This has deepened a divide between the Jewish state and the Jewish diaspora, in which some leaders have become increasingly vocal in criticizing Israel’s policies on settlements in the Palestinian territories; laws and proposals that are seen as antidemocratic or discriminatory against Arab citizens; the treatment of women; and the ultra-Orthodox control over conversion and marriage.
While more than 60 percent of Jews in the United States identify with the Reform or Conservative movements, where women and men have equal standing in prayer and many feminists have adopted ritual garments, in Israel it is one in 10. Instead, about half call themselves secular, and experts say that most of those consider Orthodoxy as the true Judaism, feel alienated from holy sites like the Western Wall, and view a woman in a prayer shawl as an alien import from abroad.”
Absorbing this and hundreds of other instances of exclusion and relegation of women to second-class citizenship within religion impacts me. These realizations keep me ostracized within a religion that was created to promote eternal love, but instead uses scripture to rationalize intolerance and sexism.
I don’t know if it will ever be possible to merge these conflicting dogmas, even though I aligned with womanist theology rather than feminist thought because it included spiritual considerations. It is most difficult as I rejoice in Christmas. As I pen this, I’m staring at a decorated tree lined with presents, dazzling Christmas lights, and a nativity scene, which features a black-baby Jesus and his black parents, including the oppressed and submissive Mary. It is a moving depiction of Christ’s birth and even within it, there are problematic flaws.
Confusion persists, but as I unwrap gifts and share in Christmas movies tomorrow, I hope I find clarity within the love.